The History of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 23 1961: Thanksgiving Day is the day when Americans traditionally pause to count their blessing, have a good turkey dinner, and then start looking forward to Christmas. One of the annual highspots is Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The floats, bands and balloons set out from Central Park West at 77th Street, swung down Broadway and ended up at Macy's. Martha Wright, star of
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It may be hard to believe but next year, in 2024, The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, as well as America’s Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit, will turn 100 years old! For the sake of this article, let’s focus on the history of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City which began in 1924 and has been televised since 1953.

The parade began as a way to showcase Macy’s flagship store which was expanded in 1924 to become the “World’s Largest Store” with 1 million square feet of retail space. To celebrate, Macy’s planned a parade for Thanksgiving morning with hopes of advertising Christmas and enticing people to come shop at Macy’s for their holiday gifts. For the very first parade, Macy’s decided on a nursery rhyme theme to match their Christmas window display.

MACY'S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE -- Pictured: The Rockettes perform during the 1964 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

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There were floats designed to match nursery rhyme stories including Mother Goose, Little Miss Muffet, and Little Red Riding Hood. Macy’s employees joined the parade dressed as clowns, cowboys, and other fun characters. There were even live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo and bringing up the rear was Santa Claus himself, which would officially kick off the holiday season. The parade was a success and continued the following year, but by 1927 the animals were excluded due to the safety of the marchers and guests as well as the fair treatment of the animals. They were replaced by the character balloons, which soon became the most beloved part of the parade.

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 22: Santa Claus, star of annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade waves a greeting to spectators

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From 1942 to 1944, the parade took a hiatus due to World War II because rubber and helium were needed for the war. Of course, in 2020 the parade was downsized and not open to the public due to the pandemic as well. Those years aside, it has marched on throughout the years and became nationwide in the late ’40s after being featured in the 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street.

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 23: Garfield and Spiderman float down Broadway during the Thanksgiving Day Parade in Times Square

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Over the years, there have been some iconic floats and balloons. Some of the most popular have been the Macy’s Star Balloons, Snoopy, Garfield, and Spongebob Squarepants. The floats often advertise upcoming movies these days and there will be a Willy Wonka one this year ahead of the new film. Performers this year include some nostalgic favorites Cher, Bell Biv Devoe, Chicago, Brandy, and more!

Tell us, do you tune in to watch one of the Thanksgiving parades each year?

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November 2023

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